Planet Rugby

Saracens must heed lessons of 2013

22nd May 2014 18:03

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Matt Giteau v Brad Barritt toulon saracens

Dangerman: Matt Giteau

Saracens boss Mark McCall says his team must heed the harsh lessons of last season's Heineken Cup semi-final defeat to Toulon ahead of Saturday's final in Cardiff.

McCall is adamant that Saracens cannot afford to gift Toulon points as they did a year ago if they hope to stay on course for an historic Premiership-European double.

"Jonny (Wilkinson) kicked 24 points last year, one was a drop-goal and the rest were penalties," said the Saracens rugby director.

"Six of those penalties we gave away when we were in possession of the ball.

"We weren't under the pump, we weren't hanging on for dear life: We had possession of the ball in our half.

"And there's a lesson for us in that, it's very important when you play Jonny Wilkinson and Toulon how you approach the game, and where you play.

"They are an outstanding defensive team, they are very good over the ball.

"Alain Rolland gives penalties quickly against the ball carrier, so you've got to be accurate when you go into contact.

"And we've got to play more of the game in their half than in our own.

"This time last year we were finished, the season was over and there was this incredible regret and disappointment.

"I think we're just chuffed that we're preparing for a huge match.

"But it's important we keep things as they always are, our very best performances are always preceded by our best preparation weeks."

While soon-to-retire Wilkinson has attracted most of the headlines, McCall believes the influence of former Wallaby centre Matt Giteau cannot be overlooked.

"[Giteau] is a very special player, because he's got not only a fantastic passing game, he kicks the ball well, he's stronger and quicker than most people think," said McCall of Giteau.

"And he's at his most dangerous when he's at the line with a winger on his inside, and you can't take your eye off him for a second, he's a superb player.

"I think Toulon are a brilliant rugby team.

"There's this common view out there of how to beat them, just to move their big men around and play with tempo, and everyone who has done that has come up short.

"So you've got to have other plans and find ways of stressing them, taking away their energy and moving their big men around in a different kind of way.

"So hopefully we'll be able to execute some things to do just that.

"I'm unbelievably impressed with what Toulon have put together, they've gathered together incredibly competitive people, all high achieving world stars.

"You put 23 of those together and you're going to get a pretty competitive team.

"I think there are examples of teams who have spent a lot of money, or brought in stars, and then not delivered.

"But Toulon seem to have chosen very well, with the squad they have got they have a great togetherness, spirit and camaraderie, and on top of that they are all good players."

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